Cardamoms, popularly known as (choti elaichi /elaichi /ilaichi) in Hindi, (Aelakka, Aelakkayu, Aelam, Elathari) in Malayalam, ‘Elakkai‘ in Tamil, ‘Yelakulu‘ in Telugu, (Elakki, Yalakki) in Kannada, (Ilaychi, Ilaychi, ililaychi) in Gujarati and (Hirvi velchi, Velchi, Veldoda, Wailchi) in Marathi.
Cardamoms are an exotic spice from India. Warm, fragrant and mysterious it has a unique and pleasant fragrance. It is inseparable from Indian sweets. It also plays a pivotal role in the Indian cuisine. Have you ever wondered if cardamom is all fragrance and no substance? You will literally have to break open the pods to discover the plethora of health benefits it has to offer! What is cardamom and why is it so important? They come from cardamom plants in India and are part of our ancient heritage. Its medicinal properties have been mentioned in Ayurveda.
Let us look at the health benefits. Cardamom is an important ingredient in cooking dishes all around the world today. Belonging to the ginger family, this spice is used in desserts, tea, coffee and many more delicious dishes (1).
Types Of Cardamom
There are two main types of cardamom based on the color (2), Each type has got a distinct personality flavor wise.
1. Green Cardamom
Mostly grown in South India, this variety comprises of fat green pods and is the most superior quality of cardamom available. It is available in pod as well as in powder form. The whole pod has a good shelf life and can retain the aroma of the seeds.
- It is used to flavor both savory and sweet dishes.
- This fragrant spice is added to rich curries and milk based preparations.
- Tea and coffee are also spiced with cardamom.
- It is even used in spiced cakes and breads.
2. Brown Cardamom
This variety is characterized by pods that are larger in size than the green cardamom and have a hairy texture. They resemble tiny fibrous coconuts.
- It is used only in savory dishes like biryani and curries.
- They are also an essential ingredient in garam masala (blend of spices).
- The dark brown seeds are known for their medicinal value, particularly due to the presence of carbohydrates, protein, moisture, volatile oil, crude fiber, phosphorus, calcium and iron.
- The volatile oil comprises of cineol, terpinene, limonene, sabinene and terpineol in the form of formic and acetic acid.
3. Ground Cardamom
This is obtained by crushing the cardamom using a mortar and pestle to form cardamom powder. It is used as a flavoring in several dishes. It has fewer flavors than the whole pods and is readily available at grocery stores.
Health Benefits Of Cardamom
Cardamom is an antispasmodic spice which can help you in getting rid of hiccups. It provides relief from involuntary muscle spasms, like intestinal and stomach cramps (3).
Cardamoms are known to detoxify the body. They are rich in minerals and vitamins like Vitamin A, B, C, niacin, riboflavin etc. It is a great blood purifier and removes excess urea, calcium and other toxins from the kidney. This is specially a home remedy used post delivery (4)
Many of the phytonutrients, vitamins and essential oils which are present in cardamom act as antioxidants. This magical spice helps in cleaning up the free radicals and tends to resist cellular aging (5).
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Though the real science behind the anti-depressant qualities of this spice has not been studied yet, Ayurvedic practitioners firmly believe that the cardamom tea is a perfect way to fight depression. It has a natural ingredient which tends to detoxify the body and rejuvenate the cells which altogether help in fighting depression (6).
5. Cold and Flu
Cardamom is a pungent spice which tends to help in preventing and relieving cold and flu symptoms. Cardamom is a good home remedy for cold and flu (7). Just make cardamom tea, consume and your headache and cold will be gone in a jiffy.
People having infections are suggested to consume cardamom which is known to prevent infections due to its therapeutic properties. The various essential oils in cardamom inhibit the growth of bacteria, viruses, mold and fungus (8).
[ Read: Cardamom Tea Benefits ]
7. Bad breath/Oral Health
Cardamom is a cure for bad breath. Apart from its trait that helps in curing bad breath, cardamom is also used for mouth ulcers and mouth infections (9). Chew a couple of cardamom seeds and it solves your breath problem (halitosis).
Cardamom is considered to be highly beneficial for asthma patients. It also acts as a natural remedy for whooping cough and bronchitis (10).
9. Improves Appetite
Add some ground cardamom to your curry or chew some of its seeds to improve your appetite.
10. Alleviates Digestive Issues
Cardamom seeds are the best solution for indigestion, belching and flatulence problems. Cardamom helps improve your digestion of food.
For those of you who suffer from hypertension, its time you consume cardamom on a regular basis as this spice has the capability of improving blood circulation to the lungs. This helps in reducing your blood pressure.
Skin Benefits Of Cardamom
Besides its application in food and drinks, this aromatic spice is also used in cosmetics to impart its fragrance. Cardamom oil, extracted from cardamom seeds, has a warm and spicy smell and great therapeutic effects.
Some of the benefits of cardamom in skincare are as follows.
12. Improves Complexion
One of the benefits of cardamom is that it can provide you with fair skin. Cardamom essential oil helps in removing blemishes, thus giving you a fairer complexion (11).
13. Improves Blood Circulation
Cardamom contains vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant. It improves blood circulation throughout the body (12), thus improving skin complexion as well.
14. Treatment of Skin Allergy
Black cardamom has antibacterial properties (13). It can be used as an antiseptic to treat skin allergies.
15. Imparts Fragrance
Cardamom is often used in cosmetics to impart fragrance. Due to their distinct spicy, sweet scent, both cardamom and cardamom oil are used in perfumes, soaps, body wash, powders and other cosmetics. Oriental style perfumes and other scented products often use cardamom as an ingredient in addition to other essential oils (14).
16. Therapeutic Properties
Cardamom can be mixed into skincare products for antiseptic and anti-inflammatory purposes to calm and soothe the skin, thanks to its therapeutic effects. When added to perfumes, it can stimulate the senses. Facial soaps use cardamom to impart a warming sensation on the skin.These cosmetics using cardamom for therapeutic reasons are known as aromatherapy products (15).
17. Great Masking Agent
The strong scent of cardamom can ward off unpleasant smells. This makes it a great addition to cosmetic products such as toners which serve a specific function but smell unappealing due to the inclusion of certain ingredients. Cardamom is added to these products to mask the unpleasant scent while retaining the benefit of the cosmetic.
18. Lip Care
Cardamom essential oil is often added to cosmetics that are applied to the lips such as lip balms to impart the taste of the oil and make them smooth.
19. Clear Skin
Black cardamoms help in flushing out the toxins, free radicals and dangerous fluids those are harmful to the body including your skin (16). Therefore, chewing on some black cardamom detoxifies your body, thus providing you with a clearer skin.
Hair Benefits Of Cardamom
We all crave for long and lustrous hair. Just like the rest of our body, our hair follicles require adequate supply of nutrients for their optimal growth and maintenance.
Cardamoms can be beneficial for your hair in the following ways.
20. Nourishes The Scalp
Black cardamoms have anti-oxidative properties that provide nourishment to the scalp and hair follicles (17).
21. Treatment Of Scalp Infections
Cardamoms possess antibacterial properties which prevent the scalp from infections and irritation.
22. Hair Health
Cardamom helps in strengthening the roots, thereby helping you gain strong hair. It is also known to provide shine and lustre to your hair.
How To Select And Store?
Selection: Both ground and loose seeds of cardamom are available in the spice section of the supermarkets while whole pods are available in specialty stores.
- When buying cardamom, always prefer the green one as it has a complex flavor that is suitable for both sweet and savory dishes. Moreover, whole cardamom pods should be chosen over ground ones. Look for small football shaped pods having a green tint. They should smell like a combination of pine and flowers.
- If ground cardamom is needed, it is advisable to grind the seeds from a whole pod with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. However, ground cardamom loses its flavor rapidly while the whole spice stays potent for a year or even longer.
Cardamom is an expensive spice and so other spices are often added to ground cardamom to reduce the cost. The opening of the pods or the grinding of the seeds causes a quick loss of the flavor and aroma of the cardamom due to the rapid loss of the essential oils. Storage: Proper storage of cardamom is of prime importance to retain its taste and aroma as well as extend its shelf life.
- The best way is to store cardamom in the form of pods because once the seeds are exposed or ground, they lose their flavor and aroma rapidly.
- Cardamom pods can last up to a year when stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
- Dry cardamom capsules should be kept in moisture proof containers away from direct sunlight.
- For bulk storage on long term basis, the pods should be kept in polythene lined gunny bags inside wooden boxes. This will preserve the green color of the pods. Before placing the capsule in the gunny bags for storage, ensure that they are fully dry. Any moisture in the bag will cause them to rot. Moreover, they should be inspected regularly for signs of moisture or spoilage.
- The storage room should be dark, dry, clean, cool and free from pests. To protect the pods from pests and insects, mosquito nettings should be fitted on the windows. They should be kept away from strong smelling food, detergents and paints as they will spoil the delicate aroma of cardamom.
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Tips For Usage (Cooking/Eating)
Cardamom is one of the most prized spices all over the world. It can be used in whole as well as ground form in a variety of dishes ranging from curry powders, dals and masalas to desserts and drinks. While cooking the seeds, they should be bruised with the back of a knife or ground with other spices before frying. Given below are the tips for the usage of cardamom as an ingredient.
1. In India, cardamom is one of the main constituents of garam masala, a combination of spices used in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. It is also an important ingredient in the preparation of curry powder commonly used in Indian cooking.
2. Cardamom can be added to tea or coffee to impart its pleasant and refreshing aroma. You can add some cardamom to your ground coffee before brewing, then sweeten and top with cream.
3. Whole green cardamom pods are added to pulaos, curries and hot dishes. As the shell integrates while cooking, it infuses the dish with its essence and refreshing aroma. Thus, it is often used to impart aroma to biryanis, pulaos and kebabs.
4. Besides the savory dishes, cardamom can be used in desserts like kheer and firni as well as sweets like gulab jamun, gajar ka halwa etc to impart its distinctive flavor. In Scandinavian countries it is used in flavoring all types of sweet pastry and bread dishes instead of cinnamon.
5. Ground cardamom seeds can be used to flavor foods like soups, pates, stews, purees and rice dishes. You can try adding some seeds to your home made rice pudding, ice cream, custard or sprinkle them over a fresh fruit salad.
6. Chicken can be marinated in honey, cardamom and pepper. It can then be roasted on the stove top and then baked to prepare the delicious cardamom honey chicken.
7. You can prepare a citrus fruit salad comprising of citrus fruits such as grapefruit and oranges, sweeten it with honey and season it with lime juice and cardamom.
8. Swedish coffee bread is slightly sweet yeast bread. It is generally flavored with cardamom and braided or made into a wreath shaped pastry.
[ VIDEO: Health Benefits Of Cardamom ]
9. Lemons can be preserved in cardamom. These can be then used in a variety of dishes.
- Cut the lemons lengthwise into quarters, leaving the stem attached
- Rub their flesh on some kosher salt and put one tablespoon of salt at the bottom of a glass jar
- Place these lemon quarters in this jar alternating with salt, cardamom pods and bay leaves
- Pour in some juice that is enough to cover the lemons and cover tightly. Allow the mixture to stand for about 3 weeks
- Keep shaking the jar daily to mix the salt. These preserved lemons can be refrigerated for up to 6 months covered with lemon juice
10. Lassi is a refreshing drink rather popular in India. Cardamom powder can be added to lassi to provide it with a distinct taste. You can prepare it by combining curd, full fat milk, powdered sugar and cardamom powder, and blending these ingredients in a mixer for 2 to 3 minutes. Serve it in glasses after adding sugar cubes. You can also garnish lassi with cardamom powder and chopped dry fruits.
11. Indian style basmati rice is a savory dish that is flavored with whole spices including cardamom.
- All you need to do is put some rice in a bowl, adding enough water to cover it
- Then heat some oil in a saucepan on medium heat and add cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, cloves and cumin seeds
- After cooking for about a minute, add some chopped onion. Saute it until golden brown for about 10 minutes
- Drain the water from the rice, and cook and stir into the pot for a few minutes. Add salt and water. Simmer for about 15 minutes at low heat until all the water has been absorbed
- Allow it to stand for 5 minutes and fluff with a fork before serving. It can be served with curry or dal (lentils)
Cardamom Nutrition Chart (USDA)
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||6.7 g||23%|
|Dietary Fiber||28 g||70%|
|Vitamin A||0 IU||0%|
|Vitamin C||21 mg||35%|
Cardamom, Nutritional value per 100 g.
The above benefits are just a tip of a really huge iceberg. Get ready to make cardamom a part of your culinary world and eating lifestyle! You can notice the change yourself. One table spoon of cardamom, that is about 6 grams, contains 18 calories, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 gram of protein and 4 grams of carbohydrates. The proportion of daily values provided by basic nutrients such as calcium, iron and Vitamin C are 2%, 4% and 2% respectively. Dietary fiber content is about 4 grams in this quantity of cardamom. The fat content provides about 3 calories. It is mildly inflammatory and contains about 0.6 grams of proteins. Other portions of calories come from the contribution of carbohydrates-12.6, fat-3.2 and protein-2.1. Minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorous are also provided in 22mg, 0.8mg, 13.2mg, 64.3mg and 10.2 mg proportions respectively. The percentage daily values are based on a 2000 calorie intake reference diet for all these values. Cardamom must be consumed in a daily basis as it provides sufficient dietary fiber, iron and manganese. Images: Shutterstock
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